A monster was created by legislative wrangling, tyranny ensues…
FRANCESTOWN WAS FIRST, THREE OTHERS TO FOLLOW
Francestown is but one of NH’s many beautiful and rural historic towns. In fact, a section of Francestown covering Stevens Road, Old County Road South, and part of Birdsall Road was nominated and accepted for listing in the National Register of Historical Places in 1980. So naturally it is understandable that the people of Francestown want to preserve their town’s rural ambiance and historical features.
The state of NH’s new, PAID 3-person Housing Appeal Board (HAB) has made its first decision which was to overturn the Francestown Planning Board’s decision regarding a proposed 4-lot subdivision smack in the middle of the above-named historic area.
The PB says that the applicant, whose was previously a resident of Wilton NH where he was taken to court by the Selectmen for Zoning and Wetlands violations, made no effort to comply with requests to restore vegetative buffers, (where have we heard this before?) or to provide a plan for soil erosion mitigation, and other items necessary to comply with protections outlined in their Zoning and Master Plan. When citing its decision to overturn the PB’s denial, the HAB claimed that their Master Plan was not “law”. How convenient of them! How many times were we told in Bedford by the TPUDC that their ideas infused into the Master Plan were “law”? Apparently it is law when it is convenient to furthering certain agendas and not law when it is not. Now the town’s only recourse is to appeal to the state Supreme Court to get them to overrule the HAB, and we all know how costly this could be.
Francestown residents still don’t understand how the HAB members can totally re-interpret and OVERRULE the deliberations of a town’s elected Planning Board members. They thought, as we did, the HAB is supposed to look only for legal errors to “correct”, and clearly, there were no legal ERRORS made by the Francestown Planning Board in their procedures or in their reasoning. It seems the HAB simply decided that the PB’s criteria was “unreasonable” and used its power to reverse Francestown’s PB ruling in order to shove housing without aesthetic or environmental requirements down the throats of the nearby residents. There is no immediate need for “Worker Housing” as there is no industry in the town, or any known need for “workers”.
Hopefully most towns will begin to see, and resent, the loss of local decision-making that the HAB represents — it strips the Planning Board of its discretion to decide where in town certain types of development is best suited. Basically it takes away your right to vote at cherished town meeting. It is slap in the face of all that is NH.
Get ready Windham, Pembroke and Chichester, as you are their next targets.
HAB Website: https://hab.nh.gov/hearings.aspx
BILL TO REPEAL HAB (HB 288) NEVER GOT A FULL VOTE
Originally the bill to create the HAB was shot down about three times in the legislature. NH Senators Giuda, Carson, Bradley, and Representative Hinch (RIP) then decided they would “secret” it into the budget where the legislators couldn’t negotiate it out. It took effect in July of 2020.
It makes sense that special interests such as Realtors and Developers would want the HAB to continue to be able to override the voters in each town. Over 650 realtors responded to NH Association of Realtor’s “Call for Action” on HB 288 (the bill asking to repeal the HAB). They asked that the House of Representatives “protect property rights” and allow the Board to continue.
Please note the HAB does NOT protect YOUR property rights, but favors special interests such as those in the same businesses as the HAB members themselves!
Because it seems the full House took no action on HB 288 before the deadline, the bill is dead for the session. I was told by a Rep that the legislature scheduled all the bills that were ITL’d in committee for the last Friday before the session ended. They ran out of time so the bills went to “limbo”. On the bright side, since HB 288 did not get an ITL by a full House vote, it can be brought back again in the next session in the fall.
We suspect that had it had a full vote, it would likely have passed. Most of the other bills that would have rewarded builders for high-density housing and provided training (indoctrination) to local boards in the philosophy of ‘new urbanism’ were voted down or laid on the table due to the fact the House of Representatives have been thoroughly educated on the issue. From their voting records it’s clear they understood the absurdity of giving a state board comprised of only two people with serious conflicts of interest, the ability to interfere in the decision-making process of ANY AND ALL local boards, especially where it concerns housing. They understood how the push to infuse high-density housing into NH would destroy the “NH Advantage” — which is that we have more jobs than workers, (preferred over the opposite situation) lower taxes, (apartment buildings do not pay their fair share) and less crime.
See for yourselves just who makes up this “Housing Appeals Board” and the obvious conflicts of interests that exist. Note that we currently could only find information for 2 of the members per their website…
Gregory E. Michael, “Trusted Real Estate Advisor” and Lobbyist
Elizabeth R. Fischer – Owns the real estate development and management firm, Elizabeth R. Fischer and Associates Consulting. She has served for 14 years on the N.H. Housing Finance Authority board of directors…
Let that sink in for a moment — these two people mentioned above, plus a yet unknown third person, have the power to overturn EVERY decision made by ANY board in ANY and EVERY town in NH. This has to be unconstitutional on its face.
This is not to say the Planning Board can never be wrong. Often people seek variances for an extra foot of space required to build a deck or garage, or for a home expansion, and they should be given. Not many would be bothered by those situations. But the HAB’s ability to override every voter in every town threatens to change the face of NH forever.
You may recall our research on the founder of the ‘new urbanism’ movement, Andrés Duany. His statement on video suggests the decision-making should be done by the smallest amount of people for the largest demographic area with no discussion at the lowest level (you, the taxpayer). This is contrary to the way we do things in New Hampshire. Be sure to watch this short video. It contains selected highlights of his speech favoring central control. He even suggests this system is “fascism, but it works”.
Who Is Andrés Duany?
Rule by regional councils and boards is exactly what the Bolsheviks did… Why bother having Town Meetings where you vote for what you want for your town? What then, is the point of the “Master Plan”?
Rest assured we will continue to submit LSRs that ask to repeal the HAB and suspect that as more voters’ rights are violated, more towns will get on board with supporting the idea. There must be a huge turnout against this HAB before it does any more damage to our beloved NH towns. Perhaps the towns will muster up the will to file a class action suit against the state for what we see as a blatant and unconstitutional power grab.
As for those NH Senators that created this monster, they should not be proud of the damage they have already done.
Related… Sununu still thinks it’s the government’s job is to provide housing. Maybe he was born in the wrong century, and in the wrong country?